Robathin v. Austria
European Court of Human Rights
3 July 2012
The applicant was a practicing lawyer. He was suspected in connection with a series of theft and fraud related offences. A search warrant was issued in respect of the office of the applicant, extending not only to information related to the particular criminal case, but to all data in the law office. The office was searched and the police copied all the information from applicant’s computer.
The applicant complained that the search and seizure of his electronic data had violated his right to private life.
The Court ruled that the search and seizure of the applicant’s electronic data was not necessary. Thus the applicant’s right to private life had been violated.
The Court found that:
- The interference was in accordance with law and served a legitimate purpose, namely, prevention of crime.
- As regards the necessity of the interference, the Court emphasized that the elements to consider are:
- Whether the search was based on a warrant issued by a judge and based on reasonable suspicion;
- Whether the scope of the warrant was reasonably limited;
- Whether there were sufficient procedural safeguards, capable of protecting the applicant against any abuse or arbitrariness.
- The Court noted that only brief and rather general reasons were given in the search warrant, thus authorizing the search and seizure of all electronic data in a general and unlimited manner. Therefore the scope of the search warrant was not reasonably limited and the interference was found disproportionate.